|Posted by andrea lizares on September 27, 2010 at 5:36 AM|
If anything distinguishes the island of Negros from others, it is the lifestyle that evolved out of the sugar plantations that created the province’s wealth. However, to see the 4th largest island of the Philippines only as Sugarlandia is to completely miss the point.
Balay ni TanaDicang during the Viernes Santo Procession, by Pons Lizares
Sugar is of course the lifeblood of Negros and nothing evokes the glory days of the sugar industry more than do the ancestral homes of the planters, the sugar centrals that tower over fields of cane, and the old steam locomotives that once crisscrossed the island to bring cane to the mills. Dating back to the late eighteen hundreds when fertile land lured the adventurous from nearby Panay and Cebu and from shores as far away as England, France, and the United States, the Balay ni Tana Dicang in Talisay is the premier example of the traditional Filipino-Spanish Bahay na Bato. Talisay also has the Ruins and the home of General Aniceto Lacson but it is Silay with 30 heritage homes and the elegant Italian architecture of the San Diego Pro-Cathedral that lays undisputed claim to being the Paris of Negros. North of the Bacolod, Victorias Milling Compound in Victorias attracts visitors to the province’s largest sugar central and to the gigantic 1949 op-art mural of the Angry Christ in the St. Joseph the Worker Chapel. Another well known Negrense mural is the 9' x 21' shell mosaic mural of the Virgen sang Barangay in the chapel of Sta. Clara subdivision, an enclave of sugar planters and the rich in Negros.
Bacolod’s most famous architectural landmarks are the Bishop's House (Palacio Episcopal, 1830), the San Sebastian Cathedral (1876), and the Provincial Capitol Building (1931), which has been described by National Artist, Architect Alejandro Locsin, as the most beautiful provincial capitol in the country. South of the Capitol is the Negros Museum a historical and humanities showcase of the people and events that made the province, 'The Sugarbowl of the Philippines." Meanwhile, the best of Negrense arts and crafts are sold in the Showroom, the beginnings of which go back to the sugar crisis of the 80s, when Negrense women augmented their laborers’ incomes through the production of finely crafted articles for export and the local market. Their products, a first class selection of furniture, houseware, clothes, jewelry, fashion accessories, bags, souvenir t-shirts, ceramics, scented candles, pottery, novelties, and FOOD, make the Negros Showroom everyone’s favorite gift shop. FOOD is a word may as well appear in capitals letters here. Visitors have been known to gain up to a pound a day as tables groaning under a surfeit of food are an indispensable feature of Negrense hospitality. Given the discriminating tastes of the wealthy and well travelled Negrenses, food tourism is a popular option and there are many excellent, reasonably priced local restaurants that serve mouthwatering alimango, oysters, other seafood, Bacolod’s famous chicken inasal, and regional and international favorites. The biggest feasts are of course during fiestas. Negrenses will go into debt to be able to feed guests and to have at least an open air ball to crown the year's queen. Towns, parishes, barangays, even haciendas, have fiestas and in most cases, not just one. Even Semana Santa is, in its way, fiesta time. The fiesta seems to be the Negrense way of saying, “Life is hard but nothing will stop us from celebrating.” So Bacolod has its Masskara (October), a response to the sugar crisis of the 80s. Other well known festivals are La Carlota's Pasalamat (thanksgiving) Festival, La Castellana's Bailes de Luces (dance of lights), San Carlos City's Pintaflores Festival (painted flowers), and Kabankalan's Sinulog. Every April, the 13 cities and 19 towns come together in Bacolod for the Festival of Festivals, the Panaad, a showcase of the province’s history, arts, culture, tourism, trade, commerce, industry, and of course, FOOD.
The island’s wealth of natural features certainly are cause to celebrate. Mount Kanlaon, a 2,465 meter asl active volcano with 9,000 hectares of pristine rainforest in Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park, is known as home of the supreme creator goddess Laon and is in the Must Climb list of every Filipino Mountaineer. The volcano’s foothills, whether in Murcia, Bago, La Carlota, or Isabela, abound with waterfalls, springs, and mountain resorts. Queen of these resorts is Murcia’s Mambucal, where the magical sound of rushing water is everywhere along the trail of the 7 waterfalls, and there are hot sulfur pools, a boating lagoon, swimming pools, and many other amenities for a day trip or a weekend. Patag (Silay) and Campuestohan (Talisay) are also well known resort areas from which begin unforgettable treks, this time through the North Negros Natural Park to Tinagong Dagat, an extinct crater that is a lake during the wet season, and Sulfutara, with its barren, rock strewn surface, sulfur yellow volcanic vents, and billowing steam. "]
The island is just as richly blessed in its waters. Along the north eastern coast, white sand islands Lakawon and Jomabo are twenty to twenty five minute banca rides away from Cadiz and Escalante respectively. Just a long white sandbar on the surface, Carbin Reef in Sagay’s 22,000 Marine Reserve is protected area that delights snorkelers with corals and diversity of marine life. South of Bacolod, fine swimming beaches line the coast from Bago to Hinobaan. Cauayan and Sipalay boast of white sand and PADI accredited diveshops while Hinobaan’s beaches are the color of mocha. Only 3 kilometers off the coast of Cauayan is world famous Danjugan island, a 43 hectare protected area that’s covered with rainforest and surrounded by coral reef. Too accessible not to mention are the coral reefs of Apo Island Marine Sanctuary near Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, just 4-6 hours away from Bacolod. Fertile land, tropical rainforests, mountains that sing with birds and running water, white sand islands and beaches, corals and marine sanctuaries, friendly people. . . . How does one describe paradise? Tara na sa Negros!
This article was awarded first place in the First Negros Occidental Provincial Tourism Blog competition. I am posting it here subject to it's being taken down should the provincial tourism office say that I cannot use the article in my websites.
Andrea Lizares Si, great granddaughter of the Negrense Matriarch Enrica Alunan Lizares, is a true-blue daughter of the sugar industry in Negros. A lawyer by training, she has gone around the island by car, four wheel pick-up, and mountain bike, also with bare feet, trekker's rubbers, and spelunker's sandals.
Photo credits: Balay ni Tana Dicang by Pons Lizares The Provincial Capitol Lagoon during Bacolaudiat Time, by Pons Lizares Food from Palmas del Mar Photos in Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/photo.php?pid=12991&id=100001079853954&ref=fbx_album Pataan, Murcia, by Francis Lizares Si Danjugan Island, from http:///www.worldlandtrust.org/projects/danjugan.htm http://www.negrosoccidentaltourism.com/